Goals of the project
Bobcat Blend is a faculty managed, student-run and grant-supported research and teaching-oriented waste management campus composting program at Texas State University. The Bobcat Blend compost project began in 2008 through a $450,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality with the hopes of developing a waste management campus composting and education program, which would reduce the amount of organic waste headed to the landfill from campus.
Nature of the Collaboration
Since the compost program is the only student-run and faculty-managed university composting program in Texas, and one of the only university composting programs in Texas, the program has been recognized as a model for other universities. Involved students develop leadership and teamwork skills while learning about the solid waste and composting industries and have garnered much interest and job offers upon and even before graduation.
Truck, dump trailer, screener, mower
When the project was initiated, cafeteria waste from two dining halls and invasive species from the San Marcos River which runs through campus were some of the original feedstocks used in compost piles. However, the project has expanded to include collections from all cafeterias with the exception of LBJ Student Center. Between August 2013 and May 2014, 6-8 students collected and processed approximately 140.5 tons of food waste to produce Bobcat Blend compost (an increase from 80.7 tons in 2012-2013, 57 tons in 2011-2012 and 27 tons in 2010-2011). The program has won several awards including, most recently, a TxSWANA Finest Award for 2013-2014 (Texas Solid Waste Association of North America). Additionally, in April 2013, Bobcat Blend Composting was recognized as one of the top 10 environmental programs in the state when the program was presented with the Pollution Prevention Environmental Educational Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), an agency of the State of Texas.
The program has won several awards including, most recently, a TxSWANA Finest Award for 2013-2014 (Texas Solid Waste Association of North America). Additionally, in April 2013, Bobcat Blend Composting was recognized as one of the top 10 environmental programs in the state when the program was presented with the Pollution Prevention Environmental Educational Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), an agency of the State of Texas. In April 2012, Bobcat Blend Composting won the Pollution Prevention Finalist Award from the same organization. Bobcat Blend also won a Boko Award in 2012 and the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce Green Business Award in 2013.
The compost project on campus has operated thus far through external grant research funds, or internal grant funding from various sources including the Environmental Service Committee; but these funds are not guaranteed from year to year and the internal funds from the Environmental Service Committee are not allocated to help sustain projects over time. Continual grant funding is essential to continue the bobcat blend compost project.
In the past, compost has also been offered to the campus and city community for sale and funds are re-invested into the program. Compost has been sold to the expanding San Marcos community gardens through Sustainable San Marcos, Edible San Marcos and the Parks and Recreation Department. Compost from the Bobcat Blend program was able to be supplied at a reduced cost to the nonprofit groups which resulted in a win/win for both programs
The compost piles are used for both teaching and research in addition to their use as a waste management alternative. Classes of students within the Horticulture program as well as groups of all ages from the San Marcos community visit the project site.
Innovations, impact and successes
Current research projects at the Bobcat Blend composting site include an Honor’s project, master’s studies in Agricultural Education and Sustainability Studies and undergraduate research studies. Studies include investigating the effectiveness of a Master Composter education program, investigating whether the natural compost system can offer an effective alternative system of management for targeted invasive species, studying the marketability of compost created with incorporated wool waste, studying the marketability of compost created with incorporated invasive seaweed from the Texas coast, observing the economics of vermicomposting on campus and observing the impact of the program on current students’ environmental attitudes, environmental locus of control and compost knowledge and attitudes.